We’ve rounded the turn and come into the home stretch of Lent, and I’m not happy. With just days to go before the Triduum, I’ve taken stock of my progress on my Lenten journey, and I’ve fallen short of my three goals.
I planned to engage in daily prayer and Scripture reflection.
Didn’t happen: I was too rushed, and there was too much noise from the office, the television, the cellphone.
I planned to sweep away self-defeating, negative thoughts.
Nope: I was even less successful than when I attempt to sweep away the cobwebs in my neglected house.
I planned to frequently pen / pixel scholarly blog entries.
Um…..Need I go on?
But this past weekend, Palm Sunday (and April Fool’s Day, which is as close to a “name day” this Catholic writer/singer will ever have), God’s ever-humorous hand in my life set forward a cascade of events that reminded me He doesn’t always give you what you want, but He’ll offer you the opportunity to obtain what you need.
I arrived early for the Saturday Vigil Mass, planning to review once more the choir’s musical inserts in the reading of the Passion. I scribbled cues into my photocopy of Mark’s Gospel and planned to sing the responses as the lectors read, business as usual. When I “work” a Mass, there’s little opportunity to savor scripture lessons, and I didn’t expect to do so that evening.
As I quickly scanned the reading, Msgr. Joe was pacing around the sacristy, leaning out to peek at the congregation, then pacing again. “Where is that second reader for the Passion?” he wondered aloud. Our narrator had arrived, but the woman scheduled to read the crowd and individual responses was nowhere to be found.
Though my head was still buried in the book, I felt the Monsignor’s eyes bore into my head. “Chris, you read it,” he stated firmly.
“Me?!” I objected incredulously. As he and everyone else in my life knows, I’m a classic Type A (or Type A+) over-preparer who plans for every contingency and fears/hates surprises. (I’m not even happy with birthday presents wrapped in thick, opaque wrapping paper; I like to get the happy face ready, plastic or genuine depending upon the contents, when I open them, fully cognizant of what I will see.)
“There’s got to be another reader in the congregation tonight you can ask,” I pled. “No, you,” Msgr. Joe replied firmly. “You’re here, you can read it.” My happy face was still at home, so I showed him my fearful/incredulous one (probably the cause of all those wrinkles around my eyes) and went into turbo panic mode.
With literally two minutes to go before the opening procession and blessing of the palms, I phoned my music director in the loft and told him I would be downstairs for the Passion reading, then grabbed the lector binder to circle my reading cues. Hmm, looks like I would play the part of the “Weren’t you with the Nazorean?”, “Crucify him” rabble-rouser chick. Simple enough: no huge Biblical names, no tongue-twisting phrases. I could read it accurately and pull this off with a little concentration.
Then, I paused and remembered my Lenten goals:
Engage in daily prayer and scripture reflection? Check! Though I hadn’t planned on it in such a public venue, where better than God’s house?
Sweep away self-defeating, negative thoughts? Check again; I’d have to give myself a booster shot of moxy to get through the 16 pages of script.
Reading the Passion, I could go two for three on the goals, with the bonus of leading the congregation on their journey through the sacrifice Christ made for all of us over two thousand years ago. God was giving me the opportunity to close out the Lenten season publically proclaiming his Word; his gentle tap on my shoulder that evening (with a virtual sledgehammer, mind you, but a loving tap) was an opportunity I wouldn’t squander.
Perhaps I wasn’t the most prepared Gospel reader that evening, but this particular gift from God wasn’t wrapped in opaque paper. It was presented plainly, beautifully, for all to see, appreciate, and cherish. I took a deep breath, stepped up to the podium and the trinity of priest, trained lector and surprised narrator read the words the evangelist Mark used as he told that wonderful, terrible story.
Farewell, Lent, and farewell to my Lenten goals, ineptly achieved though they were. It’s time to savor the rest of the Triduum as it unfolds.